Carpentry Terms

These carpentry terms are commonly used among carpenters, engineers and architects during the design and construction of residential and commercial buildings. 

Carpentry Terms

Air-Dried Lumber: Lumber that has been dried to a moisture content of approximately 15 percent by unheated air.

Anchor Bolts: Bolts driven into concrete that are used to hold structural members in place.

Arch: A curved structure designed to support its weight and the load above it.

Apse: A semicircular or polygonal building projection, as of a church.

Area way: A recessed area below grade to allow for light and ventilation into a basement window.

Asphalt Shingles: Composition roof shingles made from asphalt impregnated felt covered with mineral granules.

Astragal: An interior molding attached to one of a pair of doors or window sash in order to prevent swinging through. It is also used with sliding doors to insure tighter fitting where doors meet.

Atrium: An open court with a building.

Awning Window: An out swinging window hinged at the top of the sash.

Backfill: Earth used to fill in areas around a foundation.

Balusters: Small vertical supports for the railing of stairs.

Balustrade: A series of balusters supporting the railing of stairs or a balcony.

Bannister: A handrail with supporting posts on a stairway.

Barge board: The finish board covering the projecting portion of a gable roof.

Batt: A type of insulation designed to be placed between framing members.

Batten: A strip of wood used to cover the joint between two pieces of siding.

Beam: A horizontal member usually supported on each end by columns or posts. It is used to carry load across a door, window, or other similar opening.

Bearing Plate: A metal plate that provides support for a structural member.

Bearing Wall: A wall which supports a vertical load in addition to its own weight.

Bench Mark: A mark on some permanent object fixed to the ground from which measurements and elevations are taken.

Bird's-Mouth: A notch cut on the underside of a rafter to fit it to the top plate.

Buttress: A supporting structure built against a wall.

Cistern: A container for storing water, such as that collected from a rainwater harvesting system.

Clerestory: A wall with windows that rises above an abutting roofed section of a building or room.

Concrete Anchor: A lag screw or bolt assembly that is designed to wedge against a pre-drilled hole in the concrete to attach wood or other material to the concrete slab or structure.

Cornice: Exterior trim of a structure where the roof and walls meet.

Crow's foot: A carpentry term used to describe a mark, on a piece of wood or other material, that is defined by two or more lines extending out and originating from one point (the mark). 

Dead Load: The weight of permanent and stationary construction included in a building (see the Live Load carpentry term).

Engineered Lumber: Lumber made by gluing together veneers of wood to create very strong framing members.

Fascia: A wood member used for the outer face of a cornice where it is nailed to the ends of the rafter tails.

Footing: An enlargement at the lower end of a wall, pier, or column, to distribute the load into the ground.

Framing: The structure of a house, deck or similar structure. Structure is usually made up of studs, beams, headers, rafters, purlins, and trusses.

Green Building: Design and construction of buildings that minimize impacts of the environment while helping to keep occupants healthy.

Hammer Drill:  Also known as a "rotary hammer" - it provides a short rapid hammering action to drill through relatively brittle material (like concrete), providing quicker drilling with less effort.

Header: A type of beam that is used above a door or window.

Hip Rafter: The diagonal rafter that extends from the plate to the ridge for form the hip of a hip roof.

Jack Rafter: A short rafter usually used on hip roofs.

Joist: One of a series of parallel framing members used to support floors and ceilings.

Ledger: A strip attached to vertical framing or foundation used to support joists or other horizontal framing.

Live Load: The weight of all moving and variable loads that may be placed upon a building.  (see the Dead Load carpentry term).

Long-Point The part of a beveled cut that is the pointed part. (See the Short-Point carpentry term).

Nave: The central part of a church from the main entrance to the chancel.

Paddle Bit: A flat-shaped drill bit with a pointed center, designed to drill larger than 1/4" diameter holes in wood or other material.

Pitch: Inclination or slope, as of roofs or stairs. Rise divided by the span. Usually expressed as a 5-12 pitch roof, for example.

Plumb: Exactly perpendicular or vertical; at right angles to the horizon or the floor.

Purlin: A structural member used support a group of rafters approximately at the midway point of the span of the rafters.

Rafter: A structural member that makes up the shape and structure of a roof. The types include: hip, jack, valley and cripple.

Renewable Energy: Energy produced using solar, wind, hydro power, or biomass energy sources.

Short-Point: Refers to the part of a beveled cut that is not the pointed part (see long-point) of the cut.

Stringer: The structural part of stairs that support the risers and treads.

Stud: A structural member typically used to frame walls.

Transept: Either of the two lateral arms of a church built in the shape of a cross.

Transom: A small, often hinged, window above another window or door.

Tread: The step or horizontal member of a stair.

Underpinning: A foundation replacement or reinforcement for temporary braced supports.

Valley Jack: A rafter that runs from a ridge board to a valley rafter.

Valley Rafter: A rafter that forms the intersection between two sloping roofs.

The definitions of these carpentry terms were obtained from several books and online sources, including; Webster's Dictionary, Modern Carpentry, Architectural Drafting and Design, and Architectural Drawing.

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